Spring was cause for celebration when I lived in the Northeast. When little green stems would start to poke out of the ground, my mom would drag me outside so we could ooh and ahhh over them. On the first sort-of-maybe-warm day I would throw on a skirt or a t-shirt – and then promptly freeze because it wasn’t really that warm. But it was worth it. After a winter full of snow and freezing temperatures, the first day that it felt like spring was practically a holiday.
Looking at my calendar, the first official day of spring has come and gone but spring has only just come to the Northeast, according to my sources. And while it’s spring in San Francisco, spring isn’t the same kind of celebration here. Its also always sort of spring here with relatively clear skies with warm temperatures that still require long pants most of the year. Besides, winter is the lush and green time of year when the rains feed the grass and turn everything a brilliant green. It makes celebrating spring, just when all the grass is getting ready to turn brown, seem a little strange. But old habits die hard. Spring still feels like a reason to celebrate. So let’s toast its arrival (or impending arrival) with my favorite spring cocktail: the Pimm’s cup.
Some might argue that a Pimm’s cup, a gingery, lemony, floral cocktail, is for the summer. Perhaps it is, in the way that all delicious cocktails can really be enjoyed at any time of year. But summer feels like a time for frosty beers and fruity tropical frozen drinks, like margaritas and daiquiris. The Pimm’s is too refined for that beachy attitude. It seems more like a picnic drink, a first-cherry-blossoms-of-the-year-drink, a drink to celebrate bare legs that are finally free of tights. Cheers; to Spring.
Makes two drinks
The Pimm’s Cup is named for its main ingredient: Pimm’s No. 1, a British Liqueur. Pimm’s is a somewhat obscure alcohol although you can probably find it in a well-stocked liquor store, near the other liqueurs like Campari and Amaretto. You could also substitute gin (it’s actully an ingredient in Pimm’s) but if you did your cocktail would pack much more of a wallop since Pimm’s s fairly low alcohol.
The original Pimm’s cup called for mixing Pimm’s with lemonade but it’s a drink that lends itself to many variations and can be made with soda water, ginger ale, ginger beer, or even 7up. Likewise you can flavor it with citrus, cucumber, or even berries. Or just leave it plain and enjoy the spiciness. Call it a digestif; it sounds healthier.
1/4 c sliced cucumber
3 shots Pimm’s No. 1 (most shot glasses are between 1 and 1.5 ounces, use your best judgment)
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 cups ice
12 oz ginger beer (about one bottle)
Lemon slices and cucumber spears to garnish (optional)
In the bottom of a cocktail shaker (or really any tall narrow container with a lid, like a jar), muddle the cucumber by lightly pounding them with a mortar (from a mortar and pestle) or the handle of a wooden spoon. You can to break up the cucumbers and release some of their juice but not break the container.
When the cucumbers are all broken up, add the pimms, lemon juice, and ice. Close up the shaker (or put the lid on the jar) and shake it hard. The best way to do this is shake it one handed until your arm hurts a lot. Then switch arms and repeat until the other arm is sore. It’s worth it for an ice cold cocktail.
Stain out the ice and cucumber and divide the Pimm’s mixture into two glasses Top the glasses with ginger beer and add ice or garnishes if you’d like. Then enjoy it while the drink is still cold. Then maybe make a second one.